Saturday, 19 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we heard from the Scriptures we heard of the parallel stories of two of God’s trusted servants, namely that of Samson, the famous Judge of Israel, as well as that of St. John the Baptist, the Herald of the Messiah. Both of them were born of a woman who had not been able to conceive children, and then miraculously, they were able to conceive by God’s grace.

And God spoke to both of their parents, through His Angel, by which He revealed how those sons of theirs would become great servants dedicated to Him. They were not to touch alcoholic and strong drinks, and they were to live in the wilderness, as those who have taken the vow of obedience to God, called Nazirites. And thus, the Lord sent His servants into the world at the time when they needed help and guidance.

Samson was sent to the people of God when they were oppressed and suffered under the tyranny of the Philistines, who had overcome them and ruled over them with their mighty power. At that time, the Lord had repeatedly sent Judges, one after another to help His people as they were facing difficulties, trials and challenges from various oppressors and their neighbours because they had not obeyed the Lord and lived in sin.

We saw how the Lord repeatedly showed His care and concern for His people, that He did not want any of them to perish and suffer, and despite their sins and wickedness, He still loved them and wanted them to repent from their sins, and thus, sent to them those whom He had appointed as Judges, as those who were supposed to lead and guide the people to the right path.

Thus, Samson came at the time when the people were groaning and suffering under the heavy hand of the Philistines, and in time, as he grew in age and strength, he led the Israelites in overcoming the Philistines, their oppressors, and crushed them with the might of God on their side. Of course, as we all knew, Samson himself was tempted when the Philistines sent Delilah, a beautiful woman to lead Samson astray, but in the end, although by trickery they managed to blind and subdue Samson, but Samson did one last great act, in crushing many Philistines to death with him, as Samson dedicated his whole life to God.

In this manner, we can see that Samson was in fact the spiritual predecessor of St. John the Baptist. Just as Samson was sent to the Israelites to lead them in their struggle against the Philistines, thus St. John the Baptist was sent to guide the people of God in their long struggle against the tyranny of sin and death by calling them to repentance and to turn wholeheartedly towards God.

And just as Samson came not long before the time of king David, the just and righteous king and servant of God, who led Israel to great glory and final triumph against the Philistines, thus, St. John the Baptist led us all towards the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Saviour of the whole world, Whose birth we rejoice and celebrate in this upcoming Christmas day and season.

That is why, through what we have heard in our Scripture readings today, we are all called to turn towards the Lord and refocus our attention towards Him with all of our hearts. If we do not do so, then our celebration of Christmas is nothing less than empty and meaningless, with just merrymaking and celebrations, but without the right focus and purpose.

All of us should model ourselves on the faith and dedication that both Samson and St. John the Baptist had shown to the Lord. Samson as mentioned, died with many Philistines at the end of his life, while St. John the Baptist remained steadfast in his mission to the very end, not fearing even the king Herod, and consequently was imprisoned, and by the plotting of Herodias, was martyred in prison.

Let us all therefore purify ourselves as we prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas, purifying our thoughts and our hearts, and rededicating our words and actions, our very being to serve the Lord at all times. Let us no longer tarry and wait, but do whatever we can, and make use of this blessed time of Advent to respond to God’s call with genuine and renewed faith.

May the Lord bless us and guide us in our journey, and may He help us and strengthen us that we may persevere in faith just as Samson and St. John the Baptist had done so. May God be with us always. Amen.

Saturday, 19 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 5-25

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah, belonging to the priestly clan of Abiah. Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife also belonged to a priestly family. Both of them were upright in the eyes of God, and lived blamelessly, in accordance with all the laws and commands of the Lord, but they had no child. Elizabeth could not have any and now they were both very old.

Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulfilling their office, it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the Sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the time of offering incense, all the people were praying outside; it was then, that an Angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. On seeing the Angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him.

But the Angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will bring joy and gladness to you, and many will rejoice at his birth. This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen : he shall never drink wine or strong drink; but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.”

“Through him, many of the people of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. He, himself, will open the way to the Lord, with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; he will reconcile fathers and children; and lead the disobedient to wisdom and righteousness, in order to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah said to the Angel, “How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too.” The Angel replied, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God; and I am the one sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news! My words will come true in their time. But you would not believe; and now, you will be silent and unable to speak until this has happened.”

Meanwhile, the people waited for Zechariah; and they were surprised that he delayed so long in the Sanctuary. When he finally appeared, he could not speak to them; and they realised that he had seen a vision in the Sanctuary. He remained dumb and made signs to them. When his time of service was completed, Zechariah returned home; and, some time later, Elizabeth became pregnant.

For five months she kept to herself, remaining at home, and thinking, “This, for me, is the Lord’s doing! This is His time for mercy, and for taking away my public disgrace.”

Saturday, 19 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 70 : 3-4a, 5-6ab, 16-17

Be my Rock of refuge; a Stronghold, to give me safety; for You are my Rock and my Fortress. Rescue me, o my God, from the hand of the wicked.

For You, o YHVH, have been my Hope; my Trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

I will come to Your strength, o YHVH, and announce Your justice, Yours alone. You have taught me from my youth and, until now, I proclaim Your marvels.

Saturday, 19 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Judges 13 : 2-7, 24-25a

There was a man of Zorah of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah. His wife could not bear children. The Angel of YHVH appeared to this woman and said to her, “You have not borne children and have not given birth, but see, you are to conceive and give birth to a son.”

“Because of this, take care not to take wine or any alcoholic drink, nor to eat unclean foods from now on, for you shall bear a son who shall be a Nazirite of YHVH from the womb of his mother. Never shall his hair be cut for he is consecrated to YHVH. He shall begin the liberation of the Israelites from the Philistine oppression.”

The woman went to her husband and told him, “A messenger of God who bore the majesty of an Angel spoke to me. I did not ask him where he came from nor did he tell me his name.” “But he said to me : ‘You are to conceive and give birth to a son. Henceforth, you shall not drink wine or fermented drinks, nor eat anything unclean, for your son shall be a Nazirite of God from the womb of his mother until the day of his death.’”

The woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The boy grew and YHVH blessed him. Then the Spirit of YHVH began to move him when he was in Mahane Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.

Friday, 18 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Scripture readings today as we are getting closer to the celebration of Christmas, we are being reminded of the Lord’s promise of salvation, and how He would lead His people with love once again just as He has once saved them with great might. We heard of the promise of liberation and rescue that the Lord has given His people through the prophet Jeremiah, and its fulfilment in our Gospel today, as the Lord proclaimed the Good News of His salvation through His Angel, Gabriel.

The prophet Jeremiah spoke of the Lord Who would once again save His people from their predicament and sufferings, from their humiliations and downfall, and He would raise them up once again, bless them and lead them down the right path. This promise was indeed significant because at that time, the people of God had been scattered, and many of them had been exiled from their lands, first for most of the ten northern tribes by the Assyrians, and then many among the people of Judah when the Babylonians came and carried out many of the prominent members of the community into exile.

At that time, the people’s morale had been at an all-time low, as they had fallen deep into darkness and despair. They had disobeyed the Lord and refused to believe in Him and in the prophets that had been sent to them to call them to repent. And thus the Lord spoke to them yet again through Jeremiah, reminding them that He would save them all still, despite their disobedience, for ultimately, we all must realise that God truly loves each and every one of us, His beloved people.

Jeremiah was persecuted and opposed because of all that he spoke of, of the ruin of Jerusalem and Judah because of the people’s sins, and everything came to be true, as the Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem, its Temple and the whole kingdom of Judah, and led the rest of the people into exile just as the Lord had spoken and revealed through the prophets earlier on. And then, as He has promised, He brought them all back to their lands once again, rescuing them and leading them back to their homeland, and allowing them to regain their honour.

But that did not actually mark the end of what God had revealed through Jeremiah. Instead, it was just a preliminary action and precursor to what He would then do, not just to save the people of Israel, but even more importantly, He would save all of mankind, all the children of Adam and Eve, all those who had been beloved by Him. Just as He has liberated the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, and just as He has liberated their descendants from the slavery in Babylon, thus God wanted to liberate all of His beloved children.

Thus, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, Whose coming was proclaimed in our Gospel today by the Archangel Gabriel to Joseph, the descendant of David, all of us have been saved and have seen the salvation of God. The Lord through His Angel has reassured St. Joseph when he found out that Mary, his fiancee had been with a Child before their marriage, that he had nothing to fear and that all that happened was because of the fulfilment of His promises to save His people through the Son to be born of Mary.

And that Son is the reason why we celebrate joyfully in Christmas. We rejoice together because Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, the Son of God Most High has come into the world and manifested God’s great love and wonders, and thanks to Him, we can hope and be glad and joyful once again. Once we have to endure the humiliation and the horrible consequences and effects for our sins, but through Christ, we have a real solution and way out of the darkness and into the light.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having seen the Lord’s salvation and His genuine love for us in Christ, His beloved Son, what are we then going to do in order to prepare ourselves well for the proper and appropriate celebration of Christmas? Are we going to just continue to celebrate it like just every other year, and like how the world often observe and celebrate it? Or are we going to elevate our celebration by rejoicing in the true joy of Christmas that we find in Christ alone?

Let us all prepare ourselves well for the joyful celebration of Christmas that our joy may truly be complete and full in Christ. Let us all share this same joy with one another, especially with our less fortunate brethren, all those who have suffered and been sorrowful, and strengthen them with the love and hope of Christ. Let us all be the bearers of the true Light of Christmas in our society, through our every faithful actions and deeds. Amen.

Friday, 18 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 1 : 18-24

This is how Jesus Christ was born : Mary His mother had been given to Joseph in marriage, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph, her husband, made plans to divorce her in all secrecy. He was an upright man, and in no way did he want to disgrace her.

While he was pondering over this, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, she has conceived by the Holy Spirit, and now she will bear a Son. You shall call Him ‘Jesus’ fo He will save His people from their sins.”

All this happened in order to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet : The Virgin will conceive and bear a Son, and He will be called Emmanuel, which means : God-with-us. When Joseph awoke, he did what the Angel of the Lord had told him to do, and he took his wife to his home.

Friday, 18 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 71 : 1-2, 12-13, 18-19

God, endow the King with Your justice, the royal Son with Your righteousness. May He rule Your people justly and defend the rights of the lowly.

He delivers the needy who call on Him, the afflicted, with no one to help them. His mercy is upon the weak and the poor; He saves the lives of the poor.

Praised be YHVH, God of Israel, Who alone, works so marvellously. Praised be His glorious Name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory! Amen. Amen.

Friday, 18 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 23 : 5-8

YHVH further says, “The day is coming when I will raise up a King Who is David’s righteous successor. He will rule wisely and govern with justice and righteousness. That will be a grandiose era when Judah will enjoy peace and Israel will live in safety. He will be called YHVH-Our-Justice!”

“The days are coming,” says YHVH, “when people shall no longer swear by YHVH as the Living God Who freed the people of Israel from the land of Egypt. Rather, they will swear by YHVH as the Living God Who restored the descendants of Israel from the northern empire and from all the lands where He had driven them, to live again in their own land!”

Thursday, 17 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we come within just about a week before Christmas, we come into a more intense time of preparation in this last part of the Advent season, getting ourselves ready to enter into the glorious mystery of the Lord’s Incarnation and Nativity at Christmas, as well as the wonderful joy that we are experiencing in that joyful season to come.

In our first reading today we heard of the prophecy spoken by none other than Jacob, or Israel as he was known in his later years, when he gathered all of his sons and their own families, and said his parting words as he was about to die. He blessed all of his children, some more than others, and from among all of the children of Israel, Judah stood out the most as the one who received a very favourable blessing.

This shows that even then, the Lord had revealed through His Spirit, dwelling in Jacob, of what He was going to do for the people of Israel and for the world. And all that Jacob had said to his children, especially to Judah, would come true as the kingship over all Israel was given to David, of the tribe of Judah, who became the rightful king and God’s chosen one, and God promised that David’s house will rule over Israel forever, a promise that echoed what Jacob had said to Judah many centuries before.

And then, just as we have heard in our Gospel passage today, from the beginning of the Gospel of St. Matthew, the genealogy of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour of all, descended from Adam, the first man, from Abraham, God’s faithful servant, and from Israel and his son Judah, as prophesied and mentioned earlier. He was then also descended from king David, as David’s true heir as King.

He is the King of all Israel, the King of the whole Universe and all things, Who reigns over the throne of His forefather David, and through Him, all of the whole world has seen God’s salvation. The Lord has fulfilled everything that He had promised to His people through Jesus, Whose coming and birth into this world we are celebrating this Christmas. And now, during this time and season of Advent, we are all called to reflect on all these, and on whether we have appreciated what the Lord had done for all of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord has shown His enduring love and compassionate care for each and every one of us through His Son, fulfilling everything that He has promised us all from the beginning. And even when we had not been faithful, rebellious and delinquent, the Lord remained faithful to the Covenant that He had made with all of us.

This is why, we are all called to turn away from our many sins, from our unfaithful attitudes, from all the distractions and temptations that had led us away from the Lord and from His path. We are all called to purify our hearts, minds and our whole being, to reorientate our whole lives that we focus ourselves and our attention once again towards the Lord. This is our calling as Christians and we should heed this call, especially as we approach ever closer to Christmas.

Are we ready to celebrate Christmas with true and genuine faith, and with clear and complete understanding, appreciation and knowledge of what the Lord had done for us out of love? If we are not yet ready to do so, then what are we waiting for? The Lord is stirring us up and calls on us to respond to His call, right this very moment now. Let us all respond positively and enthusiastically to this call, brothers and sisters in Christ.

May the Lord, our Saviour and our loving God, continue to watch over us and guide us in our journey of faith. May He, through this blessed time and opportunity of Advent, touch us and our hearts, that we may be willing to listen to Him, and welcome His salvation into our midst. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 17 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 1 : 1-17

This is the account of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (their mother was Tamar), Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron of Aram. Aram was the father of Aminadab, Aminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon.

Salmon was the father of Boaz. His mother was Rahab. Boaz was the father of Obed. His mother was Ruth. Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David, the king. David was the father of Solomon. His mother had been Uriah’s wife. Solomon was the father of Rehoboam. Then came the kings : Abijah, Asaph, Jehoshaphat, Joram, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah.

Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the deportation to Babylon. After the deportation to Babylon, Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel and Salathiel of Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud, Abiud of Eliakim, and Eliakim of Azor. Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, and Akim the father of Eliud. Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar of Matthan, and Matthan of Jacob.

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and from her came Jesus Who is called the Christ – the Messiah. There were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, and fourteen generations from David to the deportation to Babylon, and fourteen generations from the deportation to Babylon to the birth of Christ.